Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People

Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

January 23rd, 2017 by SusanPopoola

Food & Culture in Milton Keynes

As I went on a Sunday walk yesterday, taking in the aroma of cooking as I passed by different houses, I found myself pondering. What were they cooking? Was it food that represents their culture or a meal that represented food that they had discovered along the way – here in Milton Keynes or further afield?

It aligns to a fascination that I have developed. Although in many ways Milton Keynes remains much the same as the town that it was close to 10 years ago when I wrote the first edition of “Touching the Heart of Milton Keynes” – it has grown. It has grown in population density, housing and a bit in terms of infrastructure and business presence. It has also developed rapidly in terms of diversity.

I remember speaking to someone a few years ago who was convinced that social engineering had taken place within Milton Keynes, which had led to a sudden burst of diversity. I’m not going to speculate on this, however, I do find it most intriguing. I spoke to a headteacher of an outstanding primary school in Milton Keynes, who spoke of the diversity within her school, with students speaking over 40 different languages from across the world. A friend also spoke of her six year old son’s excitement when he discovered that he had a new classmate who speaks Romanian.

Children don’t typically see the challenges of diversity that adults often do. But one thing that I believe that we all tend to embrace with cultural diversity is the food that comes from all across the world.

People have asked me whether I’m going to write a new version of Touching the Heart of Milton Keynes. After two editions, I don’t intend to do that. Although Milton Keynes has changed a bit, the essence remains fundamentally the same. What I do intend to do though, is use this anniversary year to explore food as a representation of culture in Milton Keynes. So do look out for me snooping around and for the outcomes of my discoveries. Also do let me know if you come across a restaurant, shop or anything else that is of interest as relates to food.

For now, I’ll just say Happy 50th Birthday Milton Keynes.

Susan Popoola is the Managing Director of Conning Towers Ltd, a boutique style Human Value Optimisation Firm. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.

Copyright 2017. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

April 13th, 2015 by SusanPopoola

The Future of Work

A presentation I gave on the Future of Work at an event for HR Directors in March 2015.
Presentation at Strategic HR Network Annual Congress on The Future of Work. The Future of Work is Social, Collaborative and Connected.
Examining how employee behaviours at work are being shaped by wider consumer technology trends and social media
– Harnessing the power of social technology to build collaboration, connection and enterprise networks
– Implications for leadership within the organisation
The Presentation is available via Slideshare. Ref: The Future of Work


May 23rd, 2014 by SusanPopoola

Bringing Back Our Girls

Bring Back Our Girls


A few weeks back I was speaking at a conference in Denmark. I asked the audience whether anyone had heard about the girls that were kidnapped in Northern Nigeria. Only one person put up his hand. If I went back there today and asked the same question I believe every single person in the room would put up their hand. In fact I believe that the same would apply to an audience anywhere in the world

I believe that the current awareness is largely due to the #BringBackOurGirls hash tag activism; the rallies; and the resultant global media focus and coverage of the abomination that took place on the night of the 14th of April when well over 200 girls were kidnapped by the militant group – Boko Haram.

So now the world has heard and people on a global basis from school children to celebrities, politicians, business people and just general everyday people are saying – “Bring Back Our Girls” This has worked to the extent that it has brought global attention to the situation. It led the global media to focus in on the situation, to go to Nigeria ask questions of the previously silent Nigerian government. It has led foreign governments to openly offer support and follow up by providing some support (even though I’m not really clear on what the support is and the impact that it is having). I believe it led Boko Haram to release a video showing girls believed to be the girls captured. It has led to meetings of interested parties, inclusive of meeting of Nigerian officials and neighbouring countries in France.

However, at this point I find myself asking where are we now and what happens next? I believe that John Simpson of the BBC provided a good analysis of the situation on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, the 18th May. Ref: (from 9.20 minutes). He concludes his analysis by saying that the best thing is to negotiate for the girls’ release.

I tend to agree with him, especially when cognisance is given to the fact that within the last week and in spite of all the attention there have been bombings in two major cities (Kano and Jos) leading to the killing 100s of people. This to me clearly demonstrates that the Nigerian government no longer has an effective military; is not effectively deploying the military and/or has no control over the military.

Furthermore, when President Goodluck Jonathan went to France for talks, all I heard was what sounded like medium term plans. What about the immediate issue of the girls? Now I’ll also add, what about something to at least try and ensure the more immediate security of the people within the country. In addition to the further bombings that I’ve mentioned, I understand that Boko Haram are threatening to kidnap more girls.

I’m not really hearing the government addressing these issues. You may say suggest that perhaps this is because I don’t live in Nigeria – this is true, however, no one that I know based in Nigeria is talking about the governments plans or actions.

It also seems to me that the global media presence in Nigeria is understandably dwindling – there are other events and areas of the world that they need to cover. They are therefore not present to raise the questions with the Government, as they were a couple of weeks back. I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes, however the only people that I see still asking direct questions are Women’s leaders such as Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin of Campaign for Democracy of Women Arise that plan to go round the country over a 14 day period holding rallies ending up in Chibok. Whilst doing this they are demanding that the Government answers questions and acts to get the girls released. Campaign for Democracy is Nigeria’s first human rights organization which was formed way back in the early 1990s. I believe that it is credible and well intentioned. (Read Dr Joe’s full profile on facebook as per the link)

I also believe that if the Bring Back Our Girls campaign – hash tag and rallies are to continue and have any real impact going forward they work in conjunction with Campaign for Democracy and/or any other such well established group asking questions and demanding answers.

I’m conscious that a key #BringBackOurGirl campaigner, Oby Ezekwesili continues to lead rallies in the capital Abuja. I’ve noticed that Dr Joe (@DrJoeOdumakin) and Oby (@obyezeks) follow each other on twitter – I hope they are or can begin to work together in solidarity.   The Nigerian Union of Teachers has also held at least one demonstration. I also hope that they can/are working together with the key campaigners.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of their approaches or what they say, but it’s not about that. When I was a School Governor we at times had long debates on issues, then would stop us with remarks – how does what we are discussing affect the students? What is in their best interest? As we all had the students’ best interest at heart we would ultimately be able to come to some agreement. I believe the same applies even more under these circumstances – if everything who declares an interest truly has the best interest of the girls at heart, then they must be a way of uniting for the best possible outcome.

You see it’s no longer about awareness, we are all now aware. At this stage it’s only a united effort behind such campaigners that can bring about results. If the campaign is not taken to a more strategic level, Boko Haram will go ahead with their threat to kidnap more girls as the Nigerian government and the rest of us watch in horror. The world has said Bring Back Our Girls – not the Girls or the Nigerians girls, but our girls. If we truly believe that they are ours – then I believe this is a must.


Susan Popoola

Copyright 2014 This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

July 7th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Reflecting on 7th July… In 2005 and 2013.

Today, the 7th July 2013 marks the 8th anniversary of the London bombing by four terrorists. It’s also the morning that we wake up to the news that Abu Qateda has finally been deported from the UK.  In addition to the news of suicide bombings in Uruzgan, Southern Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq; and  Lahore, Pakistan, there was a report of at least 29 pupils and a teacher being killed in a boarding school in North Eastern Nigeria.

Whilst I recognise that these acts of terrorism are perpetuated on the basis of these people’s definition of Islam, I really  and truly wish that we would stop calling them Islamists. I believe by doing so we almost begin to give their acts some justification or even credibility. As a Christian, I cannot speak on behalf of Muslims. However, on the basis of my understanding of Islam and interaction with Muslims over the years, I don’t believe that terrorism is a true representation of Islam. I therefore believe that by connecting terrorism to Islam and calling the terrorist, Islamist or Islamic extremist we inevitably end up avoiding the need to take the time to really and truly understand and define the root causes of these terrorist act.

More critically, however, I believe today is a time to pause and reflect on the victims of such acts.  I could try and search for the right words to express the sadness, the grief and loss as a result of such events.  However, there is someone who has a direct, personal experience that I believe expresses the situation much better. Her name is Marie Fatayi-Williams, the mother of Anthony Fatayi-Williams.

“This is Anthony, Anthony Fatayi -Williams, 26 years old, he’s missing and we fear that he was in the bus explosion … on Thursday. We don’t know. We do know from the witnesses that he left the Northern line in Euston. We know he made a call to his office at Amec at 9.41 from the NW1 area to say he could not make [it] by the tube but he would find alternative means to work.

Since then he has not made any contact with any single person. Now New York, now Madrid, now London. There has been widespread slaughter of innocent people. There have been streams of tears, innocent tears. There have been rivers of blood, innocent blood. Death in the morning, people going to find their livelihood, death in the noontime on the highways and streets.

They are not warriors. Which cause has been served? Certainly not the cause of God, not the cause of Allah because God Almighty only gives life and is full of mercy. Anyone who has been misled, or is being misled to believe that by killing innocent people he or she is serving God should think again because it’s not true. Terrorism is not the way, terrorism is not the way. It doesn’t beget peace. We can’t deliver peace by terrorism, never can we deliver peace by killing people. Throughout history, those people who have changed the world have done so without violence, they have [won] people to their cause through peaceful protest. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, their discipline, their self-sacrifice, their conviction made people turn towards them, to follow them. What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? Death and destruction of young people in their prime as well as old and helpless can never be the foundations for building society.

My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, the head of my family. In African society, we hold on to sons. He has dreams and hopes and I, his mother, must fight to protect them. This is now the fifth day, five days on, and we are waiting to know what happened to him and I, his mother, I need to know what happened to Anthony. His young sisters need to know what happened, his uncles and aunties need to know what happened to Anthony, his father needs to know what happened to Anthony. Millions of my friends back home in Nigeria need to know what happened to Anthony. His friends surrounding me here, who have put this together, need to know what has happened to Anthony. I need to know, I want to protect him. I’m his mother, I will fight till I die to protect him. To protect his values and to protect his memory.

Innocent blood will always cry to God Almighty for reparation. How much blood must be spilled? How many tears shall we cry? How many mothers’ hearts must be maimed? My heart is maimed. I pray I will see my son, Anthony. Why? I need to know, Anthony needs to know, Anthony needs to know, so do many others unaccounted for innocent victims, they need to know.

It’s time to stop and think. We cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred. Look around us today. Anthony is a Nigerian, born in London, worked in London, he is a world citizen. Here today we have Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, all of us united in love for Anthony. Hatred begets only hatred. It is time to stop this vicious cycle of killing. We must all stand together, for our common humanity. I need to know what happened to my Anthony. He’s the love of my life. My first son, my first son, 26. He tells me one day, “Mummy, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die. I want to live, I want to take care of you, I will do great things for you, I will look after you, you will see what I will achieve for you. I will make you happy.’ And he was making me happy. I am proud of him, I am still very proud of him but I need to now where he is, I need to know what happened to him. I grieve, I am sad, I am distraught, I am destroyed.

He didn’t do anything to anybody, he loved everybody so much. If what I hear is true, even when he came out of the underground he was directing people to take buses, to be sure that they were OK. Then he called his office at the same time to tell them he was running late. He was a multi-purpose person, trying to save people, trying to call his office, trying to meet his appointments. What did he then do to deserve this. Where is he, someone tell me, where is he?”



Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013


Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated





June 28th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

In Fairness to a Generation

The Most Competent, Capable and Caring Generation

 this Nation has Ever Produced

Vice-president Joe Biden gives the commencement address 

at the University of Pennsylvania’s 257th commencement 2013


I like the opinion expressed by Joe Biden, which I personally will extend to apply to young people across the world.  Overtime, however, I have found myself increasingly question whether we are generally fair to young people as we seem to continual critic them.

We refer to them as a “me, me, me generation” or the likes, in other words we call them selfish and spoilt. Ultimately they do need to take responsibility for themselves and their behaviour.  At the same time they are a product of their upbringing and the influences from the society that they, as we all live in. After all it is my hope and belief that for the vast majority of them – we did not just leave them to bring themselves up by themselves.

I could go on further about the social environment. Like the observation that although not yet updated in the dictionary; growing up, young people often find that whilst a number of adults standing together in a shopping mall are referred to as a  group; a similar number of young people are called a gang.  In milder terms it might just be said that they are loitering or hanging around.  Furthermore, whilst adults can buy coffee from a coffee shop and sit down for hours; young people are often made to move on as soon as they finish a meal talk less of a drink. They can only go into a number of shops in small numbers and if they stay at a hotel they are often looked at as if they are pests – even though they are paying.

I know I’m generalising and on the basis that it may be said that young people could choose to shop, eat, drink and stay in places where they will be treated with greater respect, let me not focus too much on this, but rather move on to education and the workplace.

Now when it comes to issues and concerns about the literacy and numeracy skills of some young people, even though I have some dyslexic tendencies and my spelling is far from perfect, I don’t feel able to defend them. Not even with the argument that the School system has failed them.  Yes, at times employers may be a bit too trigger happy dismissing applications because they spot minor spelling mistakes – possibly dismissing people that otherwise have a lot to offer. I believe there should be balance though so even I have dismissed applications when I have noticed masses of spelling mistakes including mistakes with 3 or 4 letter words.  I do recognise the criticality of literacy and numeracy to the business world as fundamental skills.

This isn’t what bothers me. Even though I don’t have children, as a School Board member (School Governor) I’m generally mindful of the time at which exam results come out and I know that time will be spent analysing the results to determine whether they are in line with expected results. I also know that there will be a fair amount of commentary on the news and elsewhere with people criticising the quality of qualifications – suggesting that exams are much easier than they used to be and that qualifications are not of the same standard.  At this point I constantly find myself contemplating how I would feel if I was a young person who had done everything I was told to do to meet a standard only for people to turn around and suggest that my qualifications are substandard.

We go on further to question the degrees they take in University.  I recall someone recently saying that he decided to take his degree because it was on offer in a University of choice and it sounded interesting.  If the courses are not valid to the workplace, why are we offering them?

Up until recently, even when we started levelling fees for qualifications, we told young people that the way forward, in order to secure a good job is to go to University and get a degree.  Again they did as was required of them.  They went to university in large numbers and obtained degrees.  For many the jobs have not been forthcoming.  Well the world has been in recession so maybe it’s understandable that this promise has been broken.

It’s not just this though. We’ve removed that entry level ladder, we’ve told them to come in with degrees and to come with employability skills yet we still want them to start of by making the coffee and doing the filing and we try to micromanage them. Then we get upset with them when they challenge us wanting work that is more meaningful. Remember they’ve paid good money for those degrees. I wonder how many people leave work or sacrifice whilst in work for an MBA without the expectation of better opportunities.

When they are not satisfied or are unhappy in a job and decide to move on, we again critic them for their lack of loyalty and for wanting it all.  We forget about another message that we are increasingly sending to them. i.e. if you listen to the typical talk to students by guests speakers and teachers alike, there is a strong possibility that they will be told that for them it’s no longer a job for life.  They are told that that they are likely to have 7 or 8 jobs or even different careers in their working lives. Therefore under these circumstances, why should they be faithful to your organisation – especially if they don’t believe that they are have understood or treated right?  I believe they are much more aware of what they want and what is acceptable to them.

This is compounded by the growth in unpaid internships and other unpaid work. A lot of employers tend to get young people to work for free, saying young people should be grateful. Now I’m not against young people doing some work for free to gain experience in situations where organisations can’t afford to pay. In fact I will immediately declare I’m looking for some to do some work for me at the moment, but though they may not be paid financially at this point in time, I would want to understand what they are looking for and support their development and progress to their next steps.  Critically, I would only not pay if I simply couldn’t afford to do so.  I see this as very different from the multinational organisations that have put their graduate recruitment programmes on hold or the high-income organisations that can afford to pay.  What are we telling them about our perception of their value.

A key question for me is how capable and prepared are we to on-board and engage young people in the 21st century workplace.

As the likes of Ken Robinson have been saying for a very long time, I believe that there is a need for a full reform of the education systems that was designed for a different era.  At the moment we seem to just make superficial changes and change assessment processes.  This does not in of itself align Education Systems to the 21st Century workplace.

Directly relating to the workplace – a few things that I believe we need to focus on and do more of:

¨     Young people need to be provided with better career guidance – both via career services and employer interaction with young people before they even start looking for work.

¨     Young people also need to be made aware of the different education routes beyond just degrees and apprenticeships.

¨     Organisations need to have and communicate clear purposes and value systems to perspective employees so that they know if it is the right environment for them.

¨     Organisations need to have robust on boarding processes in place.

¨     Organisations should be clear about career paths within their organisations.  This is one reason why I have always advocated for competency frameworks.  They provide roadmaps to the capabilities required at different levels and within different roles.

¨     Role Clarity and Job Enrichment – provide clarity about what a job entails and also making sure that it includes responsibility that are meaning and interesting.

¨     Organisations need to have the confidence to delegate some responsibility to the people that they employ, with the acceptance that they may possibly make mistakes; embracing a culture that enables people to admit when they have made mistakes so that they can be rectified.

¨     Have a focus on clearly defined outcomes rather than tasks or presenters. Moving away from a culture that dictates how tasks should be done and moving towards letting people know what the necessary outcomes are (with timeframes where applicably), allowing them to work on the how, with whatever support they need

¨     Providing coaching and mentoring support and other development as required.

¨     Having realistic expectations of them – not expecting more from them than we could actually deliver ourselves when we first entered a workplace.   After all most us were educated through similar education systems as them – think, how well would we do entering the workplace of today and what support would we want/need.

Ultimately, I believe we need to focus on and value who they actually are and what they have to offer a lot more, than the utopian focus on who we want them to be.



Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated



November 22nd, 2012 by SusanPopoola

The Eyes of a Child

I know it’s probably not the end, but I’m glad that there has been a ceasefire called in Gaza..

Even though I have studied it from the perspectives of history, academia and the Bible, I’ve I never fully understood the issue of  The West Bank. I hear people

speak of Israel’s right to defend itself; the folly of Palestinians imprisoned in their own homes and all the other common arguments and I must say –  I don’t believe it’s a simple case of right or wrong.  Sadly it’s inevitable that if things are viewed in simplistic terms there can be no lasting progress.

I find this completely disheartening because one of the worse things as far as I’m concerned is the image of destroyed homes with young children looking wide eyed at what used to be their homes.  I observe them and wonder what long term impact these images will have on their minds.  Will they lead them by miracle to say ‘no more’ or will it lead to a hate and a desire for revenge in their latter years.

I hope that the ceasefire can somehow last, but for that to really occur people need to take the time to understand other people’s point of view, look beyond themselves and compromise.  After all these years of false starts it seems almost impossible but once in a while miracles do occur and there are things that the yes of a child should truly never see.


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

August 10th, 2012 by SusanPopoola

We are Punished for Our Virtues


I have a fascination for tattoos and what they mean to the bearers. I mean what leads people to get images or words engraved on their bodies when everyone says that the process is rather painful.

I did once think that if I was to get married, instead of a wedding ring, I would be nice to get a tattoo of a wedding ring. The only thing is I would have to find someone crazy enough to want to do the same thing.  Besides it’s a painful process and I don’t like pain.

However, I remain fascinated by tattoos and the more I observe the imagery, read the wording or ask people about the meaning of their tattoos and the reason for getting them the more intrigued I become.  Maybe one day I’ll right a book.

This thinking was reinforced early today when in a casual conversation I noticed the tattoo on a man’s arm – “We are punished for our virtues.” (Fully quote, : We are punished for our virtues: we are only ever truly forgiven for our errors ?#Nietzsche” – I looked it up) Asked why he got the tattoo he explained that he went through a very difficult period of live which included going through a divorce and therefore got the tattoo.

On a more positive note he explained that he was planning on getting a tattoo on his other arm that symbolized rebirth and new beginning with the hope and belief that his life had/would soon turn around.


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.


August 8th, 2012 by SusanPopoola

Who Am I?

It may sound criminal, but I actually missed the Saturday night of the Olympics when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all won Gold medals.  Although I watched all the events later, I was actually at a party that evening.  To be precise – I was at a Nigerian party.

I Specify that it was a Nigerian party as although I originate from Nigeria and I’ve actually lived there before I very rarely go to Nigerian parties.

I therefore found myself sitting and observing – fascinated.  It was a 70th birthday party and I was fascinated by all the people dressed in different styles of dress all in the same material – brought and sewn especially to support the celebrant.

I was fascinated by the rich variety of Nigerian food inclusive of a range of rice and yam dishes with different soups and sauces.  The variety of Nigerian snacks inclusive of meat pies which are actually very meaty in comparison to the British meat pies or Cornish pasty.

I was fascinated when a variety of gifts inclusive of bags, waste paper bins and saucepans were distributed to the guests.

In addition, in recent years Nigeria seems to have developed a new style of music which is characterised by African beats with singing in English often interjected with some singing in a Nigerian language.

So as I sat contemplating my environment with fascination a song started playing with a chorus “ Who am I, Who am I”.  Even more fascinated I found myself contemplating for the first time in a long while – really and truly, Who am I in the context of Nigeria?!

Selah ?

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

March 29th, 2012 by SusanPopoola

Communication Breakdown

It’s now over 10 years since I virtually work up one morning and decided to book myself on a holiday to Japan.  My original plan was to go by myself , however, a friend intrigued by the idea asked if she could come along and we went along together.

I must say, I was really and truly pleased that she came because aside from the fact that she is generally good company, it was the first place that I ever visited where most of the people I encountered spoke very little English. Whilst her task for the trip was to make all the arrangements and decide on the must go places to visit, for some reason I was given the task of learning Japanese.  I task that I failed miserably at achieving.  As a result we spent a lot of time bowing to people, smiling and pointing to things.

The exception was when we were introduced to people who were referred to as English experts. Then we had the opportunity to speak English, the only thing is sometimes the expertise of the experts was quite limited.

Under such circumstances I found myself adopting a very bad and to be honest rude habit – I would speak louder or speak slower as if that would really make any difference.

I was reminded of this recently during a conversation that I had with an associate when I got frustrated at my inability to get my point across and ended up having a rather frustrating conversation.

There were three key points that I learnt from this conversation:
•    People have different communication styles. Adapt your communication style to your audience. You have more of a responsibility of communicating in a manner that is clear to them than they have of interpreting and understanding your message
•    If the person that you are speaking to does not agree with or understand the point that you are trying to make, no matter how frustrated you may be, repeating the point several times will not make any difference. Neither will speaking slowly or shouting.
•    No matter how important your message is, if the person you are speaking to is not receiving, don’t try and force it down the person’s throat.

Selah ?

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.